Florida governor Rick Scott (R) has suffered another legal setback in his quest to subject Florida welfare recipients to mandatory urine drug screen testing.
The US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld an injunction handed down by a lower court preventing Mr. Scott from continuing on with his drug testing plans. The fact the injunction was upheld signifies the appellate court believes there is a good chance Mr. Scott will be unsuccessful at trial on this issue.
Mr. Scott originally signed this legislation in 2011, and according to an article in the New York Times, testing welfare recipients ended up costing Florida more money than it would have had it simply provided welfare benefits to those who actually use drugs. This is because only 2.6% of the welfare recipients tested positive, and Florida was obligated to reimburse people for the cost of the test if their drug screens were negative (the patients were required to pay for the test up front).
As an aside, according to the DOJ, a 2007 survey showed 8% of the general population admitted to illicit drug use in the month prior to the survey and 14% of the general population admitted to illicit drug use over the past year.
Mr. Scott has said he will appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court.
About a year after the welfare drug testing legislation, Mr. Scott also signed a bill ordering mandatory drug testing of state employees. That lasted all of a month before it was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge. An appeal on that case will be heard next month.
Before becoming governor, Mr. Scott was the chairman and CEO of Columbia Hospital Corporation/Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). Until GlaxoSmithKline came along with its $3 billion settlement for health care fraud, HCA held the record for the largest health care fraud settlement at $1.7 billion.
After Mr. Scott resigned as CEO of HCA in 1997, he co-founded a company named Solantic that, among other things, performed urine drug testing. From one of my previous posts:
His stake in the company was $62 million when he was inaugurated, according to financial disclosure forms. A few days before he took the Governor’s office, he transferred all of his shares of Solantic into his wife’s revocable trust. Not long thereafter, Scott pushed for, and successfully passed, legislation that would require urine drug testing of all Florida welfare recipients. The recipients must pay up front for the test, and if clean, the state reimburses them for the test. The last time I checked, 2% of Florida welfare recipients test positive.
Under political pressure, Scott sold all of his shares of Solantic in April 2011, so he no longer can be accused of conflict of interest.
I have no idea whether a desire to generate profit for Solantic entered into Mr. Scott’s calculus for mandating large numbers of urine drug screens for Florida residents, but if not, it was an amazing coincidence.